Today I am welcoming Liesbet Collaert into the Indie Spotlight:
Liesbet Collaert is a bilingual freelance writer, translator, editor, and photographer from Belgium who has been writing and traveling her entire life. Her work is published internationally in anthologies and magazines, including Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing, Ocean Navigator, Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, Islands, Yachting World, Sailing Today, All At Sea, Caribbean Compass, and Zeilen. She also created walking tours for Marigot and Philipsburg in St. Martin.
The author has been interviewed about her alternative lifestyle by Multihull Sailor, Modern Day Nomads, Ocean Navigator, The Wayward Home, The Professional Hobo, and Grey Globetrotters among others. She contributed to extensive cruising surveys for All At Sea and Caribbean Compass and became an editorial assistant for Caribbean Compass in January 2019.
Liesbet loves animals, nature, and the promise of adventure. A nomad since 2003, she calls herself a world citizen and currently lives “on the road” in North America with her husband and rescue dog. Find her stories and photos at www.itsirie.com and www.roamingabout.com. Plunge is her first book.
Hi Liesbet, welcome to my blog!
What made you decide to publish your book independently? What was your path to publication?
As a debut author – like many of us – I had high aspirations to become traditionally published, because of the vanity factor, the belief that my book was good enough to become a hit, and to receive professional help without having to pay for it. As a newbie, I thought this was the best way to gain experience, skills, popularity, fame, and momentum. So, I researched how to go about achieving that goal, spent two full months creating a book proposal (which is a bit like a business prospectus), and pitched agents throughout 2019. One hundred and sixty of them. Then I waited for reactions…
A year later – surprise, surprise – no agent had accepted my project. The biggest disappointment came not from rejections, of which there were many, but from the silence. After all the effort I put forth creating personalized emails, doing research into each agent and agency, and sending out batches of emails – five to ten a day – not receiving any acknowledgement or reply from most of them stung.
The year 2020 began with changing tactics and contacting publishers interested in memoir. More research, more pitching (twenty-five queries this time), and more waiting followed and then… Covid-19. Publishers were more responsive than agents. Two seemed genuinely interested, but because of the pandemic and the uncertainty, they couldn’t take on more authors. Or so they claimed.
By the spring of 2020, I had pretty much decided (convinced myself) that self-publishing was my path. Honestly, I probably knew this all along, based on my preference of being in charge of as much as possible, making my own decisions, and feeling free (and changing my mind) and me being a perfectionist. But I had to try. I always have to try. Leave no stone unturned. And aim high. Too high.
Self-publishing my memoir was a journey in itself, and a challenging one at that. A steep learning curve; indie authors have to wear many hats. Expectations needed to be adjusted. Things didn’t go the way I wanted. Compromises followed. My freedom was restricted by design restrictions, layout programs, input by professionals. All that being said, I’m very happy with the end result – how Plunge turned out! Other than hiring an editor and cover artist, my husband and I figured everything out and are that much the wiser. 😊
There is an awful lot to figure out! Luckily there are also a lot of experienced authors out there who are willing to help with the figuring out!
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
I have only ever written non-fiction (articles for magazines, real-life stories, travel reports, emails, diaries), I enjoy sharing experiences and inspiring others, and my life has been quite extraordinary, so writing my first book about a decade of my nomadic existenceseemed natural. I don’t remember if I even knew the genre of my book was called memoir or not when the idea to create it emerged.
Depending on my audience, I call Plunge a travel memoir or a sailing memoir. It has elements of both, but the real themes go deeper, touching on personal levels, relationships, challenges, joys, love, and adventure. I wrote my book in the present tense to draw the reader in and used foreshadowing, flashbacks, and cliffhangers to keep him/her hooked. I enjoy this writing style very much. It is different from any of my other writing, but works well for this genre.
While I’m curious about fiction writing (and occasionally scribble poems), I think this is the genre I will stick with. Unless I decide to dip my toes into how-to books about any of our lifestyle choices (sailing, RVing, backpacking, house and pet sitting, roaming on a tight budget, traveling with dogs…). There are so many topics, tips, and ideas to convey!
Your book is an amazing story. It must have taken some courage to make that leap and then to write about it as well.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
No, but I do enjoy reading travel memoirs the most. Both fiction (to relax) and non-fiction (to learn) interest me. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, the only books I have read the last couple of years also feel like “work,” as they were written by fellow authors, whose manuscript I promised to beta, proof, or ARC read. I needed to take notes, which slows down the reading and reduces theenjoyment. My other “issue” is that typos and mistakes stand out like sore thumbs and I can’t help marking them in any book I read. I feel like the joyful days of reading without the “need” to improve the copy are gone. That must be the teacher and editor in me…
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I’m currently reading a book called “28 days,” which documents the real-life boat rescue mission of my friend Alex. I aim to provide feedback and a review after finally finishing this enjoyable read, which is taking even more time than my “average” two months for a book, because of other priorities this summer. I have “Unpack Your Travel Budget” staring at me. This is a quick read I want to devour as a favor to a fellow author I shared a book event with. I’ll write a review for that afterwards too. And, my TBR list of books by fellow memoirists (mostly from the WLM Author group) is extensive. Once I hit the road again, I hope to make more time available for reading, which I – truly – enjoy!
I don’t watch TV other than the occasional series or movie on Netflix and, while I enjoy listening to music on road trips, I prefer silence when I write or work. My inspiration comes from within; it’s a pool that keeps bubbling over.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice is the same for aspiring authors, travelers, nomads, and artists alike: follow your passion. We are all old and wise enough to know what our goals, desires, and priorities are at this point. And it is no secret that life is short and precious. So, I strongly encourage everyone to take a step back from their busy – or not so busy – life and figure out what it is that makes them happy, brings them satisfaction, and motivates them. And then, go for it!There is not much to lose from trying a new trait, or diving into an exciting pursuit, or expanding your horizons.
The beauty for authors – aspiring or experienced – these days is the unlimited number of resources online, from Facebook groups, to expert blogs, to articles about anything related to writing, publishing, and promotion. The advent of POD (Print on Demand) allows just about anyone to publish a book for little or no money. The possibilities are endless. But first, you have to write that story down!
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I recently contributed a chapter/story for Alyson Sheldrake’s newest travel anthology, Itchy Feet, which released the end of September 2021. Writing and publishing Plunge took five years, as I combined it with a lifestyle of house and pet sitting throughout the US and vanlife in North America. My productive moments happened when “sitting still” somewhere for months at a time. Being stuck in one place for half a year during the pandemic in 2020 allowed me to finally publish my book.
Despite having heaps of material for multiple travel memoirs, I’m not quite ready yet to tackle a second project of this magnitude. I’m also embarking on another epic adventure (a multiple-year truck camper trip in South America), which will be challenging and taking most of my time – and provide worthy content for a next book. In the meantime, I keep writing travel articles, extended diary entries, thoughts and notes on my laptop, and weekly blog posts about my life less ordinary.
Thank you so much for joining me on my Indie Spotlight today, Liesbet! I wish you every success and lots of luck with your South American trip!!
Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir, as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.
Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.
Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.
Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?
Have you ever wondered how life could be if you had made different choices? If you didn’t marry early, commit to a large loan for the house, focus on your career, start a family?
Maybe you’re just curious about how a person thinking outside the box manages? A person without boundaries, striving to be flexible, happy, and free.
What you are about to read is how one such person follows her dreams, no, her intuition, and how she survives her naivety, life altering twists, and a relationship in close quarters.
Plunge is a story of what happens when you go with the flow, when you have a bright idea – or thought you had one – and ride the waves of the unknown. Ready to hop aboard and delve in?
Itchy Feet – Tales of travel and adventure: An anthology of travel stories (The Travel Stories Series)
“Where’s my passport?”
“I need to go travelling again…”
From the Indonesian jungle, to an epic journey out of Africa, and rafting the Zambezi, twenty intrepid and inspiring authors share their adventures with you in this anthology of travel stories.
Find out what Egypt is like in a heatwave, and hunt down Dracula in Transylvania.
Catch a rare glimpse into the lives of the last Pech Indigenous people of La Moskitia, Honduras.
Experience history first-hand through four continents, three wars and a desperate message in a bottle with a story of heartbreak, poverty and travel in the 19th century.
Be entertained by a teenager’s first glance of foreign soil, and an Australian view of England. Ride a Harley through France and Spain and find out what makes someone a perpetual nomad.
Read Itchy Feet now to travel around the world from the comfort of your own armchair. No passport required.
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Dede Montgomery is a 6th generation Oregonian with a deep connection to the land,
and curiosity about life in early Oregon and the stories, good and bad, that lay there.
During the day (except when she escapes to scribble new writing ideas), Dede is a
certified industrial hygienist and works at Oregon Health & Science University in worker
safety, health and well-being research and education. Dede lives with her husband in
West Linn, Oregon where she is active with the West Linn Historical Society, and never
tires of exploring the banks and ripples of the Willamette River and other natural areas.